Fresh off their bye week the Dallas Cowboys (5-1) travel to Minnesota this Sunday to take on the Minnesota Vikings (3-3). Both teams have some serious firepower on offense, so this figures to be a high-scoring, entertaining matchup.
Before the Cowboys and Vikings square off on Halloween night, here are three bold predictions for Sunday’s matchup.
1) Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard replicate their performance from last season, rushing for over 150 total yards
When the Cowboys traveled to Minnesota in Week 11 last season they rushed for 180 yards as a team. Ezekiel Elliott had one of his best games of the year, rushing for 103 yards on 21 carries. Tony Pollard also got in on the party, breaking a 42-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter that proved to be a pivotal play in the game.
This Sunday, when the Cowboys visit Minnesota again, they’re going to replicate that success.
The biggest weakness of the Vikings’ defense this season has been their inability to stop the run. Minnesota has surrendered the sixth-most rushing yards (768) and fourth-most Y/A (4.8) on the ground this season. The Vikings have given up at least 100 rushing yards in all of their first six games.
Minnesota has faced three playoff-contending teams. The Cleveland Browns, the Arizona Cardinals, and the Cincinnati Bengals. In those three games, they have surrendered an average of 145 yards on the ground. Not coincidentally, the Vikings are 0-3 in those games.
With Dak Prescott a bit banged up, the Cowboys are going to rely heavily on their running game to pace the offense. Lucky for them, fresh of a bye Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard will be able to feast against this sub-par Vikings’ run defense.
Elliott’s physical running will wear down the Vikings’ defense, leading to Pollard breaking a 35+ yard run for a touchdown, just as he did last season.
Tony Pollard vs Vikings pic.twitter.com/QHbrHo4nLU— Law Nation Sports (@LawsNation) October 25, 2021
For the fourth time this season, the Cowboys record over 155 rushing yards as a team as they run with ease against the Minnesota defense.
2) The Vikings sack Dak Prescott four times
So far this year, the Cowboys have had one of the better offensive lines in football. With a healthy Tyron Smith and Zack Martin in the fold, Dallas has allowed just nine sacks, tied for the third-fewest in football.
The Cowboys also rank as the best run-blocking line, and fourth-best pass blocking line in the league, via Pro Football Focus.
Even with their talent, their overall performance as a unit has exceeded expectations. They have yet to have a game where the opposing defensive line really caused them some problems. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they are going to run into that issue Sunday night.
The one thing the Vikings defense has done best this season is rush the passer. Minnesota is tied for the league-lead with 21 sacks, recording 11 over their last three games. Pro Bowl edge rusher Danielle Hunter has led the way with six sacks, 22 QB hurries and a pass-rush win% of nearly 21% via PFF.
Here are all four of Danielle Hunter's sacks through the first two weeks of the year: pic.twitter.com/ZNYqt6GLIW— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) September 22, 2021
Former Cowboy Everson Griffen has also been solid, recording four sacks and a pass-rush win% of 21.3%, via PFF.
Back-to-back sacks, vintage Everson Griffen: pic.twitter.com/kaATGWRZwX— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) October 12, 2021
With Prescott’s calf injury, his mobility likely will be slightly compromised. This will give the Vikings a chance to cause some disruption in the passing game. The Cowboys allow four sacks for the second time this season, as their offensive line faces their first true test of adversity.
3) Greg Zuerlein plays hero once again
Since the start of the 2010-2011 season, the Cowboys and Vikings have faced off five times. All five matchups have been decided by four points or fewer. This Sunday will be no different.
This Sunday’s game at Minnesota is one of the tougher remaining game on the Cowboys' schedule. Dallas does have to face the currently undefeated Arizona Cardinals late in the season, but at least they get that game at home. This week they have to face a team with tons of offensive firepower, coming off a bye, in a hostile environment.
Thankfully the Cowboys also are coming off their bye week, so this should be a very even matchup. This game is going to feature tons of big plays from both offenses and will come down to the fourth quarter.
The Vikings tie things up with a little over two minutes remaining in the game, giving the Cowboys the football with a chance to win it. Dak Prescott notches the 18th game-winning drive of his career, and third this season alone, getting in field goal range for Greg Zuerlein to play the hero and covert a game-winning field goal as time expires.
We discussed all of these ideas during this week’s preview show on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel (where we operated under the assumption that Dak Prescott will be playing). You can watch it with our discussion, special guest appearance by Minnesota Vikings play-by-play announcer Paul Allen, film room observations, and more right here:
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